This month, Spook Handy will carry his guitar and “torch” onto the stage of the New Jersey Folk Festival for the 17th consecutive year. Being a torch bearer, it seems, is part of his job. “Keeping the flame alive,” he says, “is one of the great things about the festival.”
For Handy and other performers, folk music entertains and illuminates generations of fans, encouraging them to build community, embrace diversity and reflect on social issues. “We need to learn the traditions and adapt them to modern times,” he says. A lifelong New Jersey resident, Handy learned these lessons through his friendship with the legendary musician and activist Pete Seeger.
The 44th Annual New Jersey Folk Festival will be held April 28 on the lawn of Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics. In addition to a lineup of notable performers, it will feature the cultural heritage of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation.